Certainly this result is better than losing 1-4 as had happened in the two team's previous meeting, but the allowance of the draw on Saturday was the biggest disappointment since Mito's last minute draw at Hiroshima last year.
I missed the first part of the match at the while at the main gate for the first 15 minutes. Gifu scored very quickly while forward Endo would tie it up soon afterward. From my new position of caring for people in the VIP seats, I could watch the rest.
The first half saw Mito dominate with high pressure and taking advantage of Gifu mistakes. However, there were very few serious chances that resulted. Two of those few would be converted, with Arata taking a keeper's missed pass and placing it in as he will tend to do, and the third goal came from Kota Yoshihara who effectively drove in the ball off a rebound. Coming from behind to lead 3-1 made Mito seem unstoppable at halftime.
Gifu's coaching staff must have been very inspiring at halftime though as that team came out much more aggressively. It seemed that Mito would be holding its own through all of it though, when with very little time to go a Gifu player tripped/was pulled down in the penalty area. The converted PK meant that Mito would be up by one and go from attacking to killing time. That didn't go very well and despite having one player sent off, Gifu seemed able to always get the ball away and push forward. With less than a minute to go a Gifu corner kick bumbled around until it could be headed in, and the game ended in a draw.
Despite the heartbreaking draw, Mito stays in third place on the standings. However, the cushion is gone, and the top two teams have pulled ahead even further. The next few games seem winnable until tougher opponents linger on the horizon. Those matches will need to be won and good showings are needed against tougher opponents for Mito to continue its surprising fight at the top of the division. If Mito is still in striking range after round 17, hope for J1 promotion can sprout. As the past two draws have shown, Mito makes enough tactical mistakes to cause concern.